Judaism For Dummies

Judaism For Dummies

Judaism For Dummies

Judaism For Dummies

Paperback(2nd ed.)

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Your plain-English guide to Judaism

Whether you're interested in the religion or the spirituality, the culture or the ethnic traditions, Judaism For Dummies explores the full spectrum of Judaism, dipping into the mystical, meditative, and spiritual depth of the faith and the practice. 

In this warm and welcoming book, you'll find coverage of: Orthodox Jews and breakaway denominations; Judaism as a daily practice; the food and fabric of Judaism; Jewish wedding ceremonies; celebrations and holy days; 4,000 years of pain, sadness, triumph, and joy; great Jewish thinkers and historical celebrities; and much more. 

  • Updates to the "recent history" section with discussions of what has happened in the first decade of the twenty-first century including: the expansion of orthodox political power in Israel; expansion of interfaith work; unfortunate recent anti-Semitic events; and other news
  • Expanded coverage of Jewish mysticism and meditation, which has become increasingly popular in recent years
  • New coverage on Jewish views of morality, including birth control, homosexuality, and environmental concerns
  • Revised recipes for traditional Jewish cooking, updated key vocabulary, and Yiddish phrases everyone should know

Jews have long spread out to the corners of the world, so there are significant Jewish communities on many continents. Judaism For Dummies offers a glimpse into the rituals, ideas, and terms that are woven into the history and everyday lives of Jewish people as near as our own neighborhoods and as far-reaching as across the world.


P.S. If you think this book seems familiar, you re probably right. The Dummies team updated the cover and design to give the book a fresh feel, but the content is the same as the previous release of Judaism For Dummies (9781118407516). The book you see here shouldn t be considered a new or updated product. But if you re in the mood to learn something new, check out some of our other books. We re always writing about new topics!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781119643074
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 09/11/2019
Series: For Dummies Books
Edition description: 2nd ed.
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 65,149
Product dimensions: 7.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, one of the pioneers of contemporary Jewish and interfaith spirituality, is a writer, teacher, and spiritual counselor in private practice. David Blatner is an award-winning author of 15 books, including Spectrums: Our Mind-Boggling Universe From Infinitesimal to Infinity.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

About This Book 1

Conventions Used in This Book 2

Pronouncing Jewish Words 2

About the translations 3

Foolish Assumptions 4

How This Book Is Organized 5

Part 1: What Jews Generally Believe 5

Part 2: From Womb to Tomb: The Life Cycle 5

Part 3: An Overview of Jewish History 5

Part 4: Celebrations and Holy Days 5

Part 5: The Part of Tens 5

Part 6: Appendixes 6

Icons Used in This Book 6

Where to Go from Here 7

Part 1: What Jews Generally Believe 9

Chapter 1: That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Jewish: Who’s a Jew and Why 11

The Jewish Tribe 12

What’s in a name? 12

Jews far and wide 13

Who decides if you’re Jewish? 13

After all, it’s a small world 14

Major Branches of the Tree 15

Orthodox Jews 16

Breakaway denominations 18

Guess Who Else Is Jewish 22

Chapter 2: It’s All One: Judaism and God 25

Pondering Jewish Beliefs about God 26

A religion of deed, not creed 26

Arguing with God 26

Where God is 27

Calling One God Many Names 27

What’s in a name? 28

The four-letter Name of God 28

The Singular Being hidden in the plural 28

God’s Own name 29

No end to the names of God 30

Looking behind the Name 30

God creates 31

God reveals 31

God redeems 33

Embarking on a Quest for Ultimate Reality 34

Chapter 3: A Never-Ending Torah: The Unfolding of a Tradition 35

Torah: The Light That Never Dims 35

The five books of Moses 36

The weekly readings 37

The TaNaKH: The Hebrew Bible 39

Nevi’im (“Prophets”) 39

Ketuvim (“Writings”) 39

The Haftarah 40

Interpreting the Bible 40

A Hidden Revolution: The Oral Torah 41

The law of the land: The Mishnah 41

The teachings explained: The Talmud 43

Telling stories: The midrash 45

The Expanding Torah 46

Chapter 4: A Path of Blessing: Judaism as a Daily Practice 47

Connecting With God and Community through Practice: The Mitzvot 48

613 habits of highly effective people 49

Women and mitzvot 50

The reasons for mitzvot 51

Connecting With God and Community through Blessings and Prayers 52

Private worship 53

The community worship service 54

Going to Synagogue 57

Four things you’ll find in every synagogue 57

Who’s who at shul 58

Following Jewish Dietary Laws: A Brief Guide to Kosher Food 60

The reasons behind kosher 62

OU means OK for most 63

Purifying the Spirit: Rites and Rituals 63

Dressing for God: Jewish Garments and Clothing Customs 64

The yarmulka 65

Fringes and shawls 66

You shall bind them as a sign: Laying tefillin 67

The Jewish Home 68

On every doorpost: The mezuzah 68

The candelabra extraordinaire: The menorah 69

So Go Now and Live 69

Chapter 5: Jewish Mysticism 71

Delving Into Jewish Mysticism 71

What mystics tend to believe 72

The Kabbalah 72

Taking a Magical Mystical Tour 74

Early mystical texts 74

Isaac Luria, Safed’s sage 76

Israel ben Eliezer, the good master 78

Going Above and Beyond: Jewish Meditation 79

Following Maps to Understanding: The Images and Symbols 81

The Tree of Life 81

The ten sefirot 84

The Four Worlds 87

The five levels of soul 88

Chapter 6: Ethical Challenges 91

Getting to the Heart of the Matter 92

The Golden Rule 92

Expressions of God 92

Tikkun olam 93

Charged to act 93

Meeting at the Intersection of Righteousness and Charity 94

Unraveling the Problem of the Other 96

Intra- and Interfaith Challenges 97

Embracing Our Sexuality 98

Mystical visions of sexual union 99

Birth control and abortion 99

Homosexuality 100

Prohibited relationships 100

Finding a Way to Peace 101

Breaking the cycle 101

Respecting Animals and the Environment 103

Bal Tashkhit: Do not destroy 104

Tza’ar ba’alei khayim: Treat living creatures with dignity 104

Striving for tikkun olam 105

Part 2: From Womb To Tomb: The Life Cycle 107

Chapter 7: In the Beginning: Birth and Bris 109

Making the Cut: Ritual Circumcision 110

Knowing who’s involved 110

Adhering to the rituals and ceremonies 111

Making the choice 112

Thanking God for Little Girls 114

Playing the Name Game 115

Buying Back the First Born 117

Chapter 8: Coming of Age: The Bar/Bat Mitzvah 119

Preparing for the Big Day 120

Celebrating the Bar/Bat Mitzvah 121

Reading from the Good Book 121

Speech! Speech! 122

A night to celebrate 123

Celebrating as a grown up 125

Confirming Your Beliefs 125

Chapter 9: Get Me to the Chuppah On Time: Weddings 127

Looking at the Origins of Jewish Marriage 127

Preparing for the Ceremony 128

Enjoying the Wedding 129

Raising the chuppah 130

Drinking the fruit of the vine 130

Exchanging the rings 131

Sharing the seven blessings 131

Breaking the glass 133

Putting it in writing 133

Enjoying sacred moments, before and after 134

Getting a Get: Divorce 135

Walking through a divorce 136

Encountering rare troubles 137

Chapter 10: Stepping Through the Valley: The Shadow of Death 139

Planning for Death 140

Writing an ethical will 140

Making final confessions 141

Reciting parting words 142

Arranging the Funeral 143

Returning to the earth 143

Preparing the body 144

Attending a funeral and burial 145

Observing the Mourning Period 147

The first week following a funeral 147

The first month and year 148

Saying Kaddish 149

Remembering the Dead 150

Part 3: An Overview of Jewish History 153

Chapter 11: Let My People Go: From Abraham to Exodus 155

The Genesis of a People 157

Beginnings of a Way 157

The next generation 158

Who gets blessed? 159

Wrestling with God 160

The Son Also Rises 161

Interpreting dreams 161

A dream comes true 163

The Enslavement and Exodus 163

A star is born 164

Are we there yet? 165

Entering the Promised Land 166

Chapter 12: The Kings of Israel: The First Temple 167

Finding the Right Guy to Be King 168

Continuing War and Peace 169

Enter David, stage left 169

Magic and mayhem 170

Living under the Lion of Judah 170

The Wisdom of Solomon 172

Building the Temple 172

Telling a Tale of Two Kingdoms 173

The Fall of the First Temple 174

Chapter 13: Bracketed by Exile: The Second Temple 177

Finding a Home away from Home 178

There’s no place like home 178

Building and rebuilding 178

It’s All Greek to Me 179

The ptol and short of it 179

The last emperor 180

A Parting of Ways 180

All Roads Lead to Rome 181

An Edifice Complex 182

Not one but many messiahs 182

Death and dismemberment 183

Sects and Violence 183

Chapter 14: The Exiles Continue: The First Millennium 185

Beware, the End Is Nigh! 186

Revolutions and messiahs 186

The raising of the Talmud 187

Running Out of Rome 188

Jews under Islam 189

Second class is better than no class 190

The rise of the Gaon 190

All that glitters is gold 191

Let My People Stay: Prosperity and Persecution 191

Turn the other cheek 192

Take the money and run 192

The Reign in Spain 194

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition 194

Christianity or bust 195

Chapter 15: The Greatest Horror, the Greatest Triumph 197

When Poland Was a Heartland 198

Four lands, one people 198

The Chmielnicki massacres 198

The Dawning of a New Age 199

The Enlightenment 199

The question of citizenship 200

Going Beyond the Pale 201

Responses to Enlightenment 201

Reform 202

To change or not to change 203

The Rise of Nationalism and Racism 203

The return of anti-Jewish policies 204

The pogroms 204

Getting Worse and Getting Out 205

Passage to Palestine 205

Close, but not quite there 206

Hitler’s rise to power 206

The Holocaust 207

Too little, too late 207

The war against the Jews 208

The death camps 209

The fall of the Third Reich 210

Founding a New Jewish State 211

Chapter 16: Jewish Buddhists and Other Challenges of the New Age 215

In the Shadow of the Holocaust 215

The Mixed Blessing of America 216

You will be assimilated 216

The choosing people 217

Jews as Spiritual Teachers of Other Traditions 218

I didn’t know Jews did that! 218

Finding parallels 219

The New Jewish Spirituality 219

Jew versus Jew versus Jew 220

Who is a Jew 221

Can’t we just work it out? 222

Considering the Future of Judaism 223

Chapter 17: The Problem of Anti-Semitism 225

Recounting the Incomprehensible 226

Fearing an Unknown Quantity: The Origins of Hate 227

Exploding Dangerous and False Beliefs 228

Belief #1: The Jews killed Jesus 228

Belief #2: There’s an international Jewish conspiracy 230

Belief #3: Jews practice ritual murder 230

Anti-Semitism in literature and art 231

From Religion to Race: Anti-Semitism in Modern Times 232

Israel and anti-Semitism 233

The color of anti-Semitism 233

Twenty-first century anti-Semitism 234

Toward Healing 235

Part 4: Celebrations and Holy Days 237

Chapter 18: A Taste of Paradise: Shabbat 239

Understanding Shabbat 240

Shabbat: Restriction or Relief? 240

Knowing what work to avoid 241

Discovering what’s enough 241

Redefining the rules 242

Doing what you can on Shabbat 243

Welcoming the Sabbath 243

Lighting the candles 244

Saying the blessings over family, wine, and bread 245

Eating the meal 248

Attending Shabbat evening services 251

Morning has broken 251

Bidding Farewell to Shabbat 252

Wine and candles 252

Sugar, spice, and everything nice 253

The Universal Aspects of Shabbat 255

Chapter 19: In with the New: Rosh Hashanah 257

A Day for Making Judgments 258

The Book of Life: Take two 259

Teshuvah: Getting back on track 260

The 40-Day Plan 260

The days of Elul 261

Preparations: S’lichot 261

Celebrating Rosh Hashanah 262

The Makhzor: The High Holy Day prayer book 264

Blowing your horn 265

Tashlikh 266

The Ten Days of Awe 267

Cleaning your spiritual house 267

Kapparot 268

Real Beginnings Mean Real Changes 269

Chapter 20: Getting Serious: Yom Kippur 271

Yom Kippur Means Always Having to Say You’re Sorry 272

Seeking forgiveness from God 272

Repenting 272

Celebrating Yom Kippur 274

Fasting, but not quickly 274

Taking a long day’s journey 275

Preparing for Yom Kippur 276

Considering the Kol Nidre: The evening service 277

Reading and kneeling 279

Honoring the Light of Yom Kippur 281

Chapter 21: The Great Outdoors: Sukkot 283

A Jewish Thanksgiving 283

Giving thanks 284

Getting outdoorsy: Building a sukkah 284

How to Sukkot 285

A sukkah born every minute 285

Waving the lulav and etrog 287

Sh’mini Atzeret 290

Simkhat Torah 290

Chapter 22: Seeking Light in Dark Times: Chanukkah 293

Shining a Light on the Darkest Night 293

The Good Fight: What Chanukkah Celebrates 294

The two books of the Maccabees 294

Judah puts the hammer down 295

The story of the oil miracle 295

The Maccabees get their due 296

Embracing Chanukkah Customs 296

Lighting the candles 298

Blessings for the moment 299

Remembering the oil: Yummy fried foods 299

Spinning the dreidel 301

To gift, or not to gift 302

Receiving the Real Gift of Chanukkah: Personal Renewal 302

Chapter 23: Celebrating Renewal: Tu B’Shvat 305

Tithing Fruits of Land and Spirit 305

A Seder of Fruit and Wine 306

Try This at Home 307

Enlightened Gardeners 308

An Ever-Living Tree 308

Chapter 24: A Jewish Carnival: Purim 309

Purim: Based on a True Story (Sort Of) 309

It all starts with a banished queen 310

Enter Esther, stage left 310

Enter Haman, stage right 310

Haman’s big mistake 311

The final battle 312

Why Purim Survived 312

The persistence of persecution 313

Within you and without you 313

Bang a Gong: Celebrating Purim 313

Reading the Book of Esther — the whole megillah 315

Partying and playing dress up 315

Giving the gift of sweets 316

Remembering the poor 318

Other traditions: The Fast of Esther 318

Bringing Darkness to Light 318

Chapter 25: From Groan to Glee: Passover 319

Looking at the Reasons behind Passover 320

Edible Do’s and Don’ts 321

Kosher for Passover 321

The symbolism of Passover restrictions 322

First Things First: Preparing for Passover 323

Cleaning out the khametz 323

Giving to charity at Passover time 325

The Seder: As Easy as 1, 2, 3 325

The haggadah: Seder’s little instruction booklet 326

Look who’s coming to dinner 326

The prepared table 327

Steps of the seder 333

New traditions: Miriam’s Cup 338

A Time to Think about Freedom 339

It’s all about choice 340

Dayenu: So much gratitude 340

It’s Not Over till It’s Omer 341

Agricultural roots 341

The magical, mystical seven 342

Yom Ha-Shoah 343

Israeli Independence Day 343

Lag B’Omer 343

The Universal Themes in Passover 344

Chapter 26: Spring Is Busting Out All Over: Shavuot 345

The Ideas Behind Shavuot 346

Receiving the Torah 346

Meeting at Sinai 346

Tune in today! 347

Go tell it on the mountain 347

Telling stories 348

Searching for New Rituals 349

Pulling the mystical all-nighter 350

Deck the halls 351

Got milk? 351

Reading Ruth 354

Nontraditional traditions 355

Rewakening 356

Chapter 27: A Day of Mourning: Tisha B’Av 357

Fasting, Reading, and Reflecting 358

Today’s Tisha B’Av 359

Tu B’Av: Releasing into Joy 360

Part 5: The Part of Tens 361

Chapter 28: Ten People Who Helped Shape Judaism 363

Hillel 364

Rashi 364

Maimonides 365

Joseph Caro 365

Isaac Luria 366

Ba’al Shem Tov 367

Henrietta Szold 367

Abraham Isaac Kook 368

Martin Buber 369

Abraham Joshua Heschel 369

Chapter 29: Answers to Ten Common Questions about Judaism 371

Why Don’t Jews Believe in Jesus? 371

What Does It Mean to Be the “Chosen” People? 372

Why Is Israel So Important to the Jews? 372

Why Are So Many Doctors, Lawyers, and Entertainers Jewish? 373

What Is the Role of Women in Judaism? 374

What Is “Jewish Humor”? 375

Self-examination: Try it at home! 375

Dress British, think Yiddish 378

What Role Does Music Play in Jewish Culture? 378

Who’s In Charge of Judaism? 379

Can You Convert to Judaism? 380

What’s the Relationship Between Judaism and Islam? 381

Part 6: Appendixes 383

Appendix A: Oy Vey! and Other Words You Should Know 385

A Primer of Basic Words 385

Yiddish, Yinglish, Oy! 389

Appendix B: A Sampler of Jewish Prayers and Blessings 397

The Central Focus: Sh’ma and V’ahavta 398

First Thing in the Morning 398

Last Thing at Night 399

Various, Sundry, and Otherwise Useful Blessings 399

Blessings for food 400

Blessings making moments special 402

Blessings for ritual acts 403

Blessings as reminders and as teachers 404

Appendix C: Go Now and Learn 405

Books for The People of the Book 405

On the Newsstand 407

Some Jewish Organizations 407

Education and social action 408

Charities 408

Judaism on the Web 409

Index 411

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